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The Gap Year Blog

Last five years were the hottest on modern record

7 Feb 2019 17:10 PM

Photo Credit: Flickr

Edited with Permission by Frontier


According to NASA and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), last year was the fourth hottest year on record since 1880 when the independent recording of temperatures first started. This makes the last five consecutive years, from 2014- 2018, the warmest period in the modern history. 

The average temperature is now almost 1C degree warmer than it was between 1951 and 1980. This is nearly two-thirds of the 1.5C degree rise limit set in the Paris Climate Agreement. 

Globally, 2016 remains as the hottest year recorded so far, followed by 2017 and 2015. Based on the data collected by NASA, the trend of increasing temperatures is not about to slow down as the last five years have collectively shown. 18 out of 19 hottest days on record have occurred in the 2000s, indicating that the warming is a part of longer-term climate transformation, not just a quirk on the weather. Since 2014, warming of the earth has only accelerated.

The long-lasting impacts of human-made climate warming can already be seen and felt across the world. Just last year, extreme weather conditions rocked the world with record-fatal wildfires in California, Europe and Australia, sever flooding in India and hurricanes that devastated the East Coast of US.

Photo Credit: Flickr

With temperatures continuing to increase at this unexpectedly fast rate, extreme weather phenomena, like typhoons and, more surprisingly, cold temperatures in some parts of the world, are likely to become a regular sight in the following years. This temperature increase is causing the rapid melting of ice in Antarctic. The meltwater mixing with oceans eventually leads to weakening of deep oceans streams, like the Gulf Stream, causing some serious changes to climate patterns.

This would, for example, mean much colder climate for Northern Europe which has been enjoying the warm winds and waters from Central America, in the form of Gulf Stream, which has kept the climate relatively warm compared to other regions in the same latitude. On the other side of Atlantic, in East Canada, weakening of ocean circulations could however have the opposite effect.

It is not just the surface temperatures of the planet that have been on the rise, but oceans are also experiencing an increase in their temperatures. Melting ice sheets are a part of the problem. The melted freshwater makes its way to the oceans creating a lens on the surface of water which allows warm water to spread out. This warm water again fastens the ongoing cycle of the melting ice caps.

The past years have already demonstrated the large damages climate change can generate. According to a reinsurance firm Munich Re, hurricanes Florence and Michael that hit North Carolina and Florida caused property damages worth $14 billion and $16 billion last year. The estimated number of hurricanes is set to increase in next decades as a result of warming temperatures of deep ocean waters which are known to strengthen hurricanes.

In 2015, Paris Climate Agreement, signed by most of the countries in the world, pledged to limit the rise of temperatures to 1.5C degrees by cutting down the use of greenhouse gas emissions. This would help to reduce the worst impacts of climate change if achieved as soon as possible.

Like the past five years show, the temperatures will continue rising unless more radical actions are taken by governments to cut down emissions. Fixing damages caused by extreme weather conditions is eventually cost more money than transferring to a more renewable energy reliant environment and culture.

By Tiia Kärkkäinen - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservation, community, teaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!